The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has suggested it may introduce a “more aggressive” cyber division, after legislation was passed in September granting extensive new surveillance powers to law enforcement agencies in the country.
AFP TO INCREASE SCOPE
During a Senate estimates hearing held on Monday, AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said that the introduction of Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Act 2021 means the force can now proactively target suspected criminals with disruptive operations.
Kershaw highlighted that the new Act will significantly enhance how the AFP investigates ‘serious cyber-enabled crime’ and that they plan to increase cyber division powers to accommodate this.
The new bill allows police to disrupt data by modifying, copying, adding, or deleting it, and permits the AFP and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) the ability to collect intelligence from devices and networks — including taking control of an online account for an investigation.
The commissioner said that the police’s investigators are already planning how they might use the new powers in active investigations to identify, target, and disrupt offenders:
“At the moment, we’re actually going through an internal review of how we can be more aggressive in cyber, and it may mean a mini restructure internally for us to really have what we would call a cyber offensive operation of the AFP – which would actually conduct disruption operations on these individuals.”
The commissioner said this includes talking with the Five Eyes alliance about the growth of cyber threats, with Kershaw currently being the chair of the organisation’s law enforcement group.
Targeting ‘cyber criminals’ under the guise of ‘terrorism’.
While at the same time, allowing themselves closer access to break the foundations of encryption.
Encrypted communications platforms are a significant barrier for the AFP, said Kershaw, outlining that transnational serious organised crime offenders rely on them to carry out their criminality.
This has been a long agenda. Authorities already passed controversial anti-encryption legislation in 2018 in a bid to force various platforms to give them backdoor access to accounts.
This is the next frontier, and the AFP will work with governments and international law enforcement networks to ensure the long arm of the AFP reaches criminals no matter where they are.
In fact, Kershaw bragged about Australia’s relationship with this network during the hearing:
Kershaw goes on to claim that Operation Ironside was enabled by unique, international law enforcement partnerships, particularly with the FBI, as the AFP provided the agency with the technical ability to decrypt and read encrypted communications in real time.
A worldwide agenda of draconian surveillance. Big Brother on steroids.
The AFP’s plan for a new cyber offensive arm will have a dangerous effect on people’s rights and freedoms in Australia, and will de-stabilise the open, secure internet we all rely on.
These are not my words, but is according Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific policy counsel and lead on encryption policy at Access Now:
“This is extremely damaging for privacy and free expression, and undermines digital security for all. The new arm is being built on a flawed foundation.
The Five Eyes surveillance alliance has often called for backdoors to encryption, a measure that would render private and secure communication impossible.”
We need a rights-respecting frameworks to strengthen cybersecurity. Enhanced surveillance and new ‘disruption’ tools by law enforcement, as is being contemplated, will have the opposite effect.”
The AFP added that it carried out 163 disruption activities and charged eight offenders with 21 offences in relation to cybercrime during 2020-21.
THE LEGISLATION IN QUESTION:
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